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Hortus Inclusus - Miscellaneous Post by :speeenterprises Category :Nonfictions Author :John Ruskin Date :May 2012 Read :1823

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Hortus Inclusus - Miscellaneous

_24th December, 1877_.

This is just for Christmas love, and I'm quite well and up to work this morning, and the first thing I opened here was St. Ursula from Mr. Gould--and I hope the darling will be with me and you and him, and all good lovers and laborers everywhere. Love to Mary. Also to the servants. Also to the birds. If any mice are about--also to them,--and in a hush-a-bye to the Squirrels--wherever they are.

* * * * *


This reminiscence of birds--entirely delightful--puts me on a thought of better work that you can do for me than even the Shakespeare notes. Each day, when you are in spirits,--never as an effort, sit down and tell me--as in this morning's note--whatever you remember about birds--going back to very childhood--and just chatting on, about all you have seen of them and done for them.

You will make a little book as delightful--nay, much more delightful than White of Selborne--and you will feel a satisfaction in the experience of your real knowledge--power of observation--and loving sentiment, in a way to make them even more exemplary and helpful.

Now don't say you can't--but begin directly to-morrow morning.

* * * * *


What am I about all this while?

Well--I wake every morning at four--can't help it--to see the morning light--Perhaps I go to sleep again--but never for long--then I do really very good work in the mornings--but by the afternoon I'm quite beaten and can do nothing but lie about in the wood.

However--the Prosody and Serpent lectures are just finishing off and then I shall come to see you in the morning! while I am awake.

I went out before breakfast this morning, half asleep--and saw what I thought was a red breasted woodpecker as big as a pigeon! Presently it came down on the lawn and I made up my mind it was only a robin about the size of a small partridge!

Can it have been a cross-bill?

* * * * *


I've had this cold five days now and it's worse than ever, and yet I feel quite well in other respects, and the glorious sunshine is a great joy to me. Also Prince Leopold's words,(41) seen to-day. Very beautiful in themselves--and--I say it solemnly--just, more than ever I read before of friend's sayings. It is strange--I had no conception he saw so far into things or into _me_.

It is the greatest help that has ever been given me (in the view the public will take of it).

(Footnote 41: In a speech delivered at the Mansion House, February 19, 1870, in support of the extension of university teaching. See Cook's "Studies in Ruskin," p. 45.)

* * * * *


A heap half a foot high of unanswered letters pouring and tottering across the table must pour and fall as they will, while I just say how thankful I am for yours always, and how, to-day, I must leave letters, books and all to work on that lovely Trientalis which Mary sent me. It has a peculiar set of trine leaves which Linnaeus noticed and named it for--modern botanists have no notion of it.

I think both Mary and you will be deeply interested in seeing it worked out. I've been at it since seven o'clock.

Yes, if I had known you were in the garden! Alas--one never can know what one wants to--I was all that afternoon seeing the blacksmith make a chopper!

* * * * *

_15th October (1875).

I was very thankful for your letter this morning--having heard you were unwell and being a little despondent myself--more than of late--an Italian nobleman is here who cares for nothing but shooting, and everybody thinks it perfectly right!

It is a great joy to me that you find so much in the "Stones of Venice"--I hope that book is worth the time it took me to write it, every year of youth seems to me in looking back, now so precious.

How very strange I should give you _quietness_, myself being always disquieted in heart--a Ghost of poor Samuel--helpless--in sight of ruining Israel.

To think of the difference between these two scenes,--Samuel at his feast sending the prepared portion to the expected Saul.

And Samuel the Ghost--with his message.

Well--this is a cheering letter to send my poor Susie. It's all that Italian Duke.

* * * * *


If ever a Gentiana Verna demeans itself to you at Brantwood--I'll disown it and be dreadfully ashamed for it! The other little things if they'll condescend to come shall be thanked and honored with my best. Only please now _don't send me more asparagus!

I feel so piggish and rabbitish in eating you out of all your vegetables, that I'm afraid to speak lest it should turn out grunting, and to shake my head for fear of feeling flappy at the ears.

But--please--Is the bread as brown as it used to be? I think you're cosseting me up altogether and I don't like the white bread so well!

* * * * *


What _can you mean about your ignorance--or my astonishment at it? Indeed you are a naughty little Susie to think such things. I never come to the Thwaite but you and your sister tell me all kinds of things I didn't know, and am so glad to know.

I send a book of architect's drawings of Pisa, which I think will interest you--only you must understand that the miserable Frenchman who did it, could not see the expression of face in any of the old sculptures, nor draw anything but hard mechanical outlines--and the charm of all these buildings is this almost _natural grace of free line and color.

The little tiny sketch of mine, smallest in the sheet of 4 (the other sheet only sent to keep its face from rubbing) will show you what the things really are like--the whole front of the dome, plate XI. (the wretch can't even have his numbers made legibly) is of arches of this sweet variable color.

Please can your sister or you plant a grain or grains of corn for me, and watch them into various stages of germination.(42) I want to study the mode of root and blade development. And I am sure you two will know best how to show it me.

(Footnote 42: "Proserpina,")

* * * * *

BRANTWOOD, _30th December, 1883_.

I heard with extreme sorrow yesterday of your mischance, and with the greater, that I felt the discomfort and alarm of it would be increased to you--in their depressing power by a sense of unkindness to you on my part in not having been to see you--nor even read the letter which would have warned me of your accident. But you must remember that Christmas is to me a most oppressive and harmful time--the friends of the last thirty years of life all trying to give what they cannot give--of pleasure, or receive what--from me, they can no more receive--the younger ones especially thinking they can amuse me by telling me of their happy times--which I am so mean as to envy and am doubly distressed by the sense of my meanness in doing so.

And my only resource is the quiet of my own work, to which--these last days--I have nearly given myself altogether. Yet I _had read your letter as far as the place where you said you wanted one and then, began to think what I should say--and "read no further"(43) that day--and now here is this harm that had befallen you--which I trust, nevertheless, is of no real consequence, and this one thing I must say once for all, that whatever may be my feelings to you--you must _never more let yourself imagine for an instant they can come of any manner of offense? _That thought is real injustice to me. I have never, and never can have, any other feeling towards you than that of the deepest gratitude, respect, and affection--too sorrowfully inexpressible and ineffectual--but never changing. I will drive, walk, or row, over to see you on New Year's day--if I am fairly well--be the weather what it will. I hope the bearer will bring me back a comforting report as to the effects of your accident and that you will never let yourself again be discomforted by mistrust of me, for I am and shall ever be

Your faithful and loving servant,

(Footnote 43: Dante, "Inferno," v. 144.)

* * * * *

I never heard the like--my writing good! and just now!! If you only saw the wretched notes on the back of lecture leaves!

But I am so very glad you think it endurable, and it is so nice to be able to give you a moment's pleasure by such a thing. I'm better to-day, but still extremely languid. I believe that there is often something in the spring which weakens one by its very tenderness; the violets in the wood send one home sorrowful that one isn't worthy to see them, or else, that one isn't one of them.

It is mere Midsummer dream in the wood to-day.

You could not possibly have sent me a more delightful present than this Lychnis; it is the kind of flower that gives me pleasure and health and memory and hope and everything that Alpine meadows and air can. I'm getting better generally, too. The sun _did take one by surprise at first.

How blessedly happy Joanie and the children were yesterday at the Thwaite! I'm coming to be happy myself there to-morrow (D.V.).

Here are the two bits of study I did in Malham Cove; the small couples of leaves are different portraits of the first shoots of the two geraniums. I don't find in any botany an account of their little round side leaves, or of the definite central one above the branching of them.

Here's your lovely note just come. I am very thankful that the "Venice" gives you so much pleasure.

I _have_, at least, one certainty, which few authors could hold so surely, that no one was ever harmed by a book of mine; they may have been offended, but have never been discouraged or discomforted, still less corrupted.

_There's a saucy speech for Susie's friend. You won't like me any more if I begin to talk like that.

* * * * *

A sapphire is the same stone as a ruby; both are the pure earth of clay crystallized. No one knows why one is red and the other blue.

A diamond is pure _coal crystallized.

An opal, pure flint--in a state of fixed _jelly_.

I'm in a great passion with the horrid people who write letters to tease my good little Susie. _I won't have it. She shall have some more stones to-morrow.

I must have a walk to-day, and can't give account of them, but I've looked them out. It's so very nice that you like stones. If my father, when I was a little boy, would only have given me stones for bread, how I should have thanked him.

What infinite power and treasure you have in being able thus to enjoy the least things, yet having at the same time all the fastidiousness of taste and imagination which lays hold of what is greatest in the least, and best in all things!

Never hurt your eyes by writing; keep them wholly for admiration and wonder. I hope to write little more myself of books, and to join with you in joy over crystals and flowers in the way we used to do when we were both more children than we are.

* * * * *


I am ashamed not to have sent you a word of expression of my real and very deep feelings of regard and respect for you, and of my not _fervent (in the usual phrase, which means only hasty and ebullient), but serenely _warm_, hope that you may keep your present power of benevolent happiness to length of many days to come. But I hope you will sometimes take the simpler view of the little agate box than that of birthday token, and that you will wonder sometimes at its labyrinth of mineral vegetable! I assure you there is nothing in all my collection of agates in its way quite so perfect as the little fiery forests of dotty trees in the corner of the piece which forms the bottom. I ought to have set it in silver, but was always afraid to trust it to a lapidary.

What you say of the Greek want of violets is also very interesting to me, for it is one of my little pet discoveries that Homer means the blue iris by the word translated "violet."

* * * * *

_Thursday morning.

I'm ever so much better, and the jackdaw has come. But why wasn't I there to meet his pathetic desire for art knowledge? To think of that poor bird's genius and love of scarlet ribbons, shut up in a cage! What it might have come to!

If ever my St. George's schools come to any perfection, they shall have every one a jackdaw to give the children their first lessons in arithmetic. I'm sure he could do it perfectly. "Now, Jack, take two from four, and show them how many are left." "Now, Jack, if you take the teaspoon out of this saucer, and put it into _that_, and then if you take two teaspoons out of two saucers, and put them into this, and then if you take one teaspoon out of this, and put it into that, how many spoons are there in this, and how many in that?"--and so on.

Oh, Susie, when we _do get old, you and I, won't we have nice schools for the birds first, and then for the children?

That photograph is indeed like a visit; how thankful I am that it is still my hope to get the real visit some day!

I was yesterday and am always, certainly at present, very unwell, and a mere trouble to my Joanies and Susies and all who care for me. But I'm painting another bit of moss which I think Susie will enjoy, and hope for better times.

Did you see the white cloud that stayed quiet for three hours this morning over the Old Man's summit? It was one of the few remains of the heaven one used to see. The heaven one had a Father in, not a raging enemy.

I send you Rogers' "Italy," that is no more. I do think you'll have pleasure in it.

* * * * *

I've been made so miserable by a paper of Sir J. Lubbock's on flowers and insects, that I must come and whine to you. He says, and really as if he knew it, that insects, chiefly bees, entirely originate flowers; that all scent, color, pretty form, is owing to bees; that flowers which insects don't take care of, have no scent, color, nor honey.

It seems to me, that it is likelier that the flowers which have no scent, color, nor honey, don't get any attention from the bees.

But the man really knows so much about it, and has tried so many pretty experiments, that he makes me miserable.

So I'm afraid you're miserable too. Write to tell me about it all.

It is very lovely of you to send me so sweet a note when I have not been near you since the tenth century. But it is all I can do to get my men and my moor looked after; they have both the instinct of doing what I don't want, the moment my back's turned; and then there has not been light enough to know a hawk from a hand-saw, or a crow from a ptarmigan, or a moor from a meadow. But how much better your eyes must be when you can write such lovely notes!

I don't understand how the strange cat came to love you so quickly, after one dinner and a rest by the fire! I should have thought an ill-treated and outcast animal would have regarded everything as a trap, for a month at least,--dined in tremors, warmed itself with its back to the fire, watching the door, and jumped up the chimney if you stepped on the rug.

If you only knew the good your peacock's feathers have done me, and if you could only see the clever drawing I'm making of one from the blue breast! You know what lovely little fern or equisetum stalks of sapphire the filaments are; they beat me so, but they're coming nice.

* * * * *

That is so intensely true what you say about Turner's work being like nature's in its slowness and tenderness. I always think of him as a great natural force in a human frame.

_So nice all you say of the "Ethics"! And I'm a monster of ingratitude, as bad as the Dragon of Wantley. Don't like Dr. Brown's friend's book at all. It's neither Scotch nor English, nor fish nor flesh, and it's tiresome.

I'm in the worst humor I've been in this month, which is saying much; and have been writing the wickedest "Fors" I ever wrote, which is saying more; you will be _so angry.

* * * * *

I'm so very glad you will mark the bits you like, but are there not a good many here and there that you _don't like?--I mean that sound hard or ironical. Please don't mind them. They're partly because I never count on readers who will really care for the prettiest things, and it gets me into a bad habit of expressing contempt which is not indeed any natural part of my mind.

It pleases me especially that you have read "The Queen of the Air." As far as I know, myself, of my books, it is the most useful and careful piece I have done. But that again--did it not shock you to have a heathen goddess so much believed in? (I've believed in English ones long ago). If you can really forgive me for "The Queen of the Air," there are all sorts of things I shall come begging you to read some day.

* * * * *

_21st July.

I'm always looking at the Thwaite, and thinking how nice it is that you are there. I think it's a little nice, too, that _I'm within sight of you, for if I hadn't broken, I don't know how many not exactly promises, but nearly, to be back at Oxford by this time, I might have been dragged from Oxford to London, from London to France, from France who knows where? But I'm here, and settled to produce, as soon as possible, the following works--

1. New number of "Love's Meinie," on the Stormy Petrel.
2. New ditto of "Proserpina," on sap, pith, and bark.
3. New ditto of "Deucalion," on clouds.
4. New "Fors," on new varieties of young ladies.
5. Two new numbers of "Our Fathers," on Brunehaut, and
Bertha her niece, and St. Augustine and St. Benedict.
6. Index and epilogue to four Oxford lectures.
7. Report and account of St. George's Guild.

And I've had to turn everything out of every shelf in the house, for mildew and moths.

And I want to paint a little bank of strawberry leaves.

And I've to get a year's dead sticks out of the wood, and see to the new oat field on the moor, and prepare lectures for October!

I'm _so idle. I look at the hills out of bed, and at the pictures off the sofa. Let us _both be useless beings; let us be butterflies, grasshoppers, lambs, larks, anything for an easy life. I'm quite horrified to see, now that these two have come back, what a lot of books I've written, and how cruel I've been to myself and everybody else who ever has to read them. I'm too sleepy to finish this note.

* * * * *

_13th June.

I do not know when I have received, or how I _could receive so great an encouragement in all my work, as I do in hearing that you, after all your long love and watchfulness of flowers, have yet gained pleasure and insight from "Proserpina" as to leaf structure. The examples you send me are indeed admirable. Can you tell me the exact name of the plant, that I may quote it?

Yes, and the weather also is a great blessing to me--so lovely this morning.

* * * * *

I'm getting steadily better, and breathing the sunshine a little again in soul and lips. But I always feel so naughty after having had morning prayers, and that the whole house is a sort of little Bethel that I've no business in.

I'm reading history of early saints too, for my Amiens book, and feel that I ought to be scratched, or starved, or boiled, or something unpleasant, and I don't know if I'm a saint or a sinner in the least, in mediaeval language. How did saints feel themselves, I wonder, about their saintship?

* * * * *

It is _such a joy to hear that you enjoy anything of mine, and a double joy to have your sympathy in my love of those Italians. How I wish there were more like you! What a happy world it would be if a quarter of the people in it cared a quarter as much as you and I do, for what is good and true:

That Nativity _is the deepest of all. It is by the master of Botticelli, you know; and whatever is most sweet and tender in Botticelli he owes to Lippi.

But, do you know, I quite forget about Cordelia, and where I said it! please keep it till I come. I hope to be across to see you to-morrow.

They've been doing photographs of me again, and I'm an orang-outang as usual, and am in despair. I thought with my beard I was beginning to be just the least bit nice to look at. I would give up half my books for a new profile.

What a lovely day since twelve o'clock! I never saw the lake shore more heavenly.

I am very thankful that you like this "St. Mark's" so much, and do not feel as if I had lost power of mind. I think the illness has told on me more in laziness than foolishness. I feel as if there was as much _in me as ever, but it is too much trouble to say it. And I find myself reconciled to staying in bed of a morning to a quite woeful extent. I have not been affected so much by melancholy, being very thankful to be still alive, and to be able to give pleasure to some people.

You have greatly helped me by this dear little note. And the bread's all right, brown again, and I'm ready for asparagus of any stoutness, there! Are you content! But my new asparagus is quite _visible this year, though how much would be wanted for a dish I don't venture to count, but must be congratulated on its definitely stalky appearance.

I was over the water this morning on school committee. How bad I have been to let those poor children be tormented as they are all this time! I'm going to try and stop all the spelling and counting and catechising, and teach them only--to watch and pray.

The oranges make me think I'm in a castle in Spain!

* * * * *

Your letters always warm me a little, not with laughing, but with the soft glow of life, for I live mostly with "la mort dans l'ame." (It is curious that the French, whom one thinks of as slight and frivolous, have this true and deep expression for the forms of sorrow that kill, as opposed to those that discipline and strengthen.) And your words and thoughts just soften and warm like west wind.

It is nice being able to please you with what I'm writing, and that you can tell people I'm not so horrid.

Here's the "Fors" you saw the proof of, but _this isn't quite right yet.

The Willy(44) quotations are very delightful. Do you know that naughty "Cowley" at all? There's all kind of honey and strawberries in him.

It is bitter cold here these last days. I don't stir out, but must this afternoon. I've to go out to dinner and work at the Arundel Society. And if you only knew what was in my thoughts you would be _so sorry for me, that I can't tell you.

(Footnote 44: Shakespeare.)

* * * * *


What a sad little letter! written in that returned darkness. How can _you ever be sad, looking forward to eternal life with all whom you love, and God over all?

It is only so far as I lose hold of that hope, that anything is ever a trial to me. But I can't think how I'm to get on in a world with no Venice in it.

You were quite right in thinking I would have nothing to do with lawyers. Not one of them shall ever have so much as a crooked sixpence of mine, to save him from being hanged, or to save the Lakes from being filled up. But I really hope there may be feeling enough in Parliament to do a right thing without being deafened with lawyers' slang.

I have never thanked you for the snowdrops. They bloomed here beautifully for four days. Then I had to leave them to go and lecture in London. It was nice to see them, but my whole mind is set on finding whether there is a country where the flowers do not fade. Else there is no spring for me. People liked the lecture, and so many more wanted to come than could get in, that I had to promise to give another.

* * * * *

Here's your little note first of all. And if you only knew how my wristbands are plaguing me you'd be very sorry. They're too much starched, and _would come down like mittens; and now I've turned them up, they're just like two horrid china cups upside down, inside my coat, and I'm afraid to write for fear of breaking them. And I've a week's work on the table, to be done before one o'clock, on pain of uproar from my friends, execution from my enemies, reproach from my lovers, triumph from my haters, despair of Joanie, and--what from Susie? I've had such a bad night, too; woke at half-past three and have done a day's work since then--composing my lecture for March, and thinking what's to become of a godson of mine whose----

Well, never mind. I needn't give _you the trouble, poor little Susie, of thinking too.

* * * * *

I'm going to Oxford to-day (D.V.), really quite well, and rather merry. I went to the circus with my new pet, and saw lovely riding and ball play; and my pet said the only drawback to it all, was that she couldn't sit on both sides of me. And then I went home to tea with her, and gave mamma, who is Evangelical, a beautiful lecture on the piety of dramatic entertainments, which made her laugh whether she would or no; and then I had my Christmas dinner in advance with Joanie and Arfie and Stacy Marks, and his wife and two pretty daughters, and I had six kisses--two for Christmas, two for New Year's Day, and two for Twelfth Night--and everybody was in the best humor with everybody else. And now my room is ankle deep in unanswered letters, mostly on business, and I'm going to shovel them up and tie them in a parcel labeled "Needing particular attention;" and then that will be put into a cupboard in Oxford, and I shall feel that everything's been done in a business-like way.

That badger's beautiful. I don't think there's any need for such beasts as _that to turn Christians.

* * * * *

I am indeed most thankful you are well again, though I never looked on that deafness very seriously; but if you _like hearing watches tick, and boots creak, and plates clatter, so be it to you, for many and many a year to come. I think I should _so like to be deaf, mostly, not expected to answer anybody in society, never startled by a bang, never tortured by a railroad whistle, never hearing the nasty cicadas in Italy, nor a child cry, nor an owl. Nothing but a nice whisper into my ear, by a pretty girl. Ah well, I'm very glad I can chatter to you with my weak voice, to my heart's content; and you must come and see me soon now. All that you say of "Proserpina" is joyful to me. What a Susie you are, drawing like that! and I'm sure you know Latin better than I do.

* * * * *

I am better, but not right yet. There is no fear of sore throat, I think, but some of prolonged tooth worry. It is more stomachic than coldic, I believe, and those tea cakes are too crisply seductive! What _can it be, that subtle treachery that lurks in tea cakes, and is wholly absent in the rude honesty of toast?

The metaphysical effect of tea cake last night was, that I had a perilous and weary journey in a desert, in which I had to dodge hostile tribes round the corners of pyramids.

A very sad letter from Joanie tells me she was going to Scotland last night, at which I am not only very sorry but very cross.

A chirping cricket on the hearth advises me to keep my heart up.

* * * * *

Your happy letters (with the sympathetic misery of complaint of dark days) have cheered me as much as anything could do.

The sight of one of my poor "Companions of St. George," who has sent me, not a widow's but a parlor-maid's (an old school-mistress) "all her living," and whom I found last night, dying, slowly and quietly, in a damp room, just the size of your study (which her landlord won't mend the roof of), by the light of a single tallow candle--dying, I say, _slowly_, of consumption, not yet near the end, but contemplating it with sorrow, mixed partly with fear, lest she should not have done all she could for her children!

The sight of all this and my own shameful comforts, three wax candles and blazing fire and dry roof, and Susie and Joanie for friends!

Oh me, Susie, what _is to become of me in the next world, who have in this life all my good things!

* * * * *

What a sweet, careful, tender letter this is! I re-inclose it at once for fear of mischief, though I've scarcely read, for indeed my eyes are weary, but I see what gentle mind it means.

Yes, you will love and rejoice in your Chaucer more and more. Fancy, I've never time, now, to look at him,--obliged to read even my Homer and Shakespeare at a scramble, half missing the sense,--the business of life disturbs one so.

* * * * *


(Illustration: Plan of Ruskin's room)

Here's your letter first thing in the morning, while I'm sipping my coffee in the midst of such confusion as I've not often achieved at my best. The little room, which I think is as nearly as possible the size of your study, but with a lower roof, has to begin with--A, my bed; B, my basin stand; C, my table; D, my chest of drawers; thus arranged in relation to E, the window (which has still its dark bars to prevent the little boy getting out); F, the fireplace; G, the golden or mineralogical cupboard; and H, the grand entrance. The two dots with a back represent my chair, which is properly solid and not _un_-easy. Three others of lighter disposition find place somewhere about. These with the chimney-piece and drawer's head are covered, or rather heaped, with all they can carry, and the morning is just looking in, astonished to see what is expected of it, and smiling--(yes, I may fairly say it is smiling, for it is cloudless for its part above the smoke of the horizon line)--at Sarah's hope and mine, of ever getting that room into order by twelve o'clock. The chimney-piece with its bottles, spoons, lozenge boxes, matches, candlesticks, and letters jammed behind them, does appear to me entirely hopeless, and this the more because Sarah,(45) when I tell her to take a bottle away that has a mixture in it which I don't like, looks me full in the face, and says "she _won't_, because I may want it." I submit, because it is so nice to get Sarah to look one full in the face. She really is the prettiest, round faced, and round eyed girl I ever saw, and it's a great shame she should be a housemaid; only I wish she would take those bottles away. She says I'm looking better to-day, and I think I'm feeling a little bit more,--no, I mean, a little bit less demoniacal. But I still can do that jackdaw beautifully.

(Footnote 45: Our Herne Hill parlor-maid for four years. One of quite the brightest and handsomest types of English beauty I ever saw, either in life, or fancied in painting.--J. R.)

* * * * *

I am quite sure you would have felt like Albert Duerer, had you gone on painting wrens.

The way Nature and Heaven waste the gifts and souls they give and make, passes all wonder. You might have done anything you chose, only you were too modest.

No, I never _will call you my dear lady; certainly, if it comes to that, something too dreadful will follow.

* * * * *

I am most interested in your criticism of "Queen Mary." I have not read it, but the choice of subject is entirely morbid and wrong, and I am sure all you say must be true. The form of decline which always comes on mental power of Tennyson's passionately sensual character, is always of seeing ugly things, a kind of delirium tremens. Turner had it fatally in his last years.

I am so glad you enjoy writing to me more than any one else. The book you sent me of Dr. John Brown's on books, has been of extreme utility to me, and contains matter of the deepest interest. Did you read it yourself? If not I must lend it to you.

I am so glad also to know of your happiness in Chaucer. Don't hurry in reading. I will get you an edition for your own, that you may mark it in peace.

* * * * *

I send you two books, neither I fear very amusing, but on my word, I think books are always dull when one really most wants them. No, other people don't feel it as you and I do, nor do the dogs and ponies, but oughtn't we to be thankful that we _do feel it. The thing I fancy we are both wanting in, is a right power of enjoying the past. What sunshine there _has been even in this sad year! I have seen beauty enough in one afternoon, not a fortnight ago, to last me for a year if I could rejoice in memory.

I have a painter friend, Mr. Goodwin, coming to keep me company, and I'm a little content in this worst of rainy days, in hopes there _may be now some clearing for him.

Our little kittens pass the days of their youth up against the wall at the back of the house, where the heat of the oven comes through. What an existence! and yet with all my indoor advantages

I am your sorrowful and repining
J. R.

* * * * *

I am entirely grateful for your letter, and for all the sweet feelings expressed in it, and am entirely reverent of the sorrow which you feel at my speaking thus. If only all were like you! But the chief sins and evils of the day are caused by the Pharisees, exactly as in the time of Christ, and "they make broad their phylacteries" in the same way, the Bible superstitiously read, becoming the authority for every error and heresy and cruelty. To make its readers understand that the God of their own day is as living, and as able to speak to them directly as ever in the days of Isaiah and St. John, and that He would now send messages to His Seven Churches, if the Churches would hear, needs stronger words than any I have yet dared to use, against the idolatry of the historical record of His messages long ago, perverted by men's forgetfulness, and confused by mischance and misapprehension; and if instead of the Latin form "Scripture" we put always "writing" instead of "written" or "write" in one place, and "Scripture" as if it meant our English Bible, in another, it would make such a difference to our natural and easy understanding the range of texts.

The peacock's feathers are marvelous. I am very glad to see them. I never had any of their downy ones before. My compliments to the bird, upon them, please.

I found a strawberry growing just to please itself, as red as a ruby, high up on Yewdale crag yesterday, in a little corner of rock all its own; so I left it to enjoy itself. It seemed as happy as a lamb, and no more meant to be eaten.

Yes, those are all sweetest bits from Chaucer (the pine new to me); your own copy is being bound. And all the Richard,--but you must not copy out the Richard bits, for I like all my Richard alike from beginning to end. Yes, my "seed pearl" bit is pretty, I admit; it was like the thing. The cascades here, I'm afraid, come down more like seed oatmeal.

* * * * *

I believe in my hasty answer to your first kind letter I never noticed what you said about Aristophanes. If you will indeed send me some notes of the passages that interest you in the "Birds," it will not only be very pleasant to me, but quite seriously useful, for the "Birds" have always been to me so mysterious in that comedy, that I have never got the good of it which I know is to be had. The careful study of it put off from day to day, was likely enough to fall into the great region of my despair, unless you had chanced thus to remind me of it.

Please, if another chance of good to me come in your way, in another brown spotty-purple peacock's feather, will you yet send it to me, and I will be always your most grateful and faithful

J. R.

* * * * *


What translation of Aristophanes is that? I must get it. I've lost I can't tell you how much knowledge and power through false pride in refusing to read translations, though I couldn't read the original without more trouble and time than I could spare; nevertheless, you must not think this English gives you a true idea of the original. The English is much more "English" in its temper than its words. Aristophanes is far more dry, severe, and concentrated; his words are fewer, and have fuller flavor; this English is to him what currant jelly is to currants. But it's immensely useful to me.

Yes, that is very sweet about the kissing. I have done it to rocks often, seldom to flowers, not being sure that they would like it.

I recollect giving a very reverent little kiss to a young sapling that was behaving beautifully in an awkward chink, between two great big ones that were ill-treating it. Poor me, (I'm old enough, I hope, to write grammar my own way,) my own little self, meantime, never by any chance got a kiss when I wanted it,--and the better I behaved, the less chance I had, it seemed.

* * * * *

I never thought the large packet was from you; it was thrown aside with the rest, till evening, and only opened _then by chance. I was greatly grieved to find what I had thus left unacknowledged. The drawings are entirely beautiful and wonderful, but, like all the good work done in those bygone days, (Donovan's own book being of inestimable excellence in this kind,) they affect me with profound melancholy in the thought of the loss to the entire body of the nation of all this perfect artistic capacity, and sweet will, for want of acknowledgment, system, and direction. I must write a careful passage on this matter in my new Elements of Drawing. Your drawings have been sent me not by you, but by my mistress Fors, for a text. It is no wonder, when you can draw like this, that you care so much for all lovely nature. But I shall be ashamed to show you my peacock's feather; I've sent it, however.

* * * * *

It is _very sweet of you to give me your book, but I accept it at once most thankfully. It is the best type I can show of the perfect work of an English lady in her own simple peace of enjoyment and natural gift of truth, in her sight and in her mind. And many pretty things are in my mind and heart about it, if my hands were not too cold to shape words for them. The book shall be kept with my Bewicks; it is in nowise inferior to them in fineness of work. The finished proof of next "Proserpina" will, I think, be sent me by Saturday's post. Much more is done, but this number was hindered by the revisal of the Dean of Christ Church, which puts me at rest about mistakes in my Greek.

* * * * *

It is a great joy to me that _you like the Wordsworth bits; there are worse coming; but I've been put into a dreadful passion by two of my cleverest girl pupils "going off pious!" It's exactly like a nice pear getting "sleepy;" and I'm pretty nearly in the worst temper I _can be in, for W. W. But what _are these blessed feathers? Everything that's best of grass and clouds and chrysoprase. What incomparable little creature wears such things, or lets fall! The "fringe of flame" is Carlyle's, not mine, but we feel so much alike, that you may often mistake one for the other now.

* * * * *

You cannot in the least tell what a help you are to me, in caring so much for my things and seeing what I try to do in them. You are quite one of a thousand for sympathy with everybody, and one of the ten times ten thousand, for special sympathy with my own feelings and tries. Yes, that second column is rather nicely touched, though I say it, for hands and eyes of sixty-two; but when once the wind stops I hope to do a bit of primrosey ground that will be richer.

* * * * *

Here, not I, but a thing with a dozen of colds in its head, am!

I caught one cold on Wednesday last, another on Thursday, two on Friday, four on Saturday, and one at every station between this and Ingleborough on Monday. I never was in such ignoble misery of cold. I've no cough to speak of, nor anything worse than usual in the way of sneezing, but my hands are cold, my pulse nowhere, my nose tickles and wrings me, my ears sing--like kettles, my mouth has no taste, my heart no hope of ever being good for anything, any more. I never passed such a wretched morning by my own fireside in all my days, and I've quite a fiendish pleasure in telling you all this, and thinking how miserable you'll be too. Oh me, if I ever get to feel like myself again, won't I take care of myself.

* * * * *

The feathers nearly made me fly away from all my Psalters and Exoduses, to you, and my dear Peacocks. I wonder when Solomon got his ivory and apes and peacocks, whether he ever had time to look at them. He couldn't always be ordering children to be chopped in two. Alas, I suppose his wisdom, in England of to-day, would have been taxed to find out which mother lied in saying which child _wasn't hers!

I've been writing to Miss R. again, and Miss L.'s quite right to stay at home. "She thinks I have an eagle's eye." Well, what else should I have, in day time? together with my cat's eye in the dark? But you may tell her I should be very sorry if my eyes were _no better than eagles'! "Doth the eagle know what is in the pit"?(46) _I do.

(Footnote 46: Blake.)

* * * * *

I hope you will be comforted in any feeling of languor or depression in yourself by hearing that I also am wholly lack lustrous, _de_pressed, _op_pressed, _com_pressed, and _down_pressed by a quite countless pressgang of despondencies, humilities, remorses, shamefacednesses, all overnesses, all undernesses, sicknesses, dullnesses, darknesses, sulkinesses, and everything that rhymes to lessness and distress, and that I'm sure you and I are at present the mere targets of the darts of the ----, etc., etc., and Mattie's waiting and mustn't be loaded with more sorrow; but I can't tell you how sorry I am to break my promise to-day, but it would not be safe for me to come.

* * * * *

I'm a little better, but can't laugh much yet, and won't cry if I can help it. Yet it always makes me _nearly cry, to hear of those poor working men trying to express themselves and nobody ever teaching them, nor anybody in all England, knowing that painting is an _art_, and sculpture also, and that an untaught man can no more carve or paint, than play the fiddle. All efforts of the kind, mean simply that we have neither master nor scholars in any rank or any place. And I, also, what have _I done for Coniston schools yet! I don't deserve an oyster shell, far less an oyster.

* * * * *

_Thursday evening_.

You won't get this note to-morrow, I'm afraid, but after that I think they will be regular till I reach Oxford. It is very nice to know that there is some one who does care for a letter, as if she were one's sister. You would be glad to see the clouds break for me; and I had indeed a very lovely morning drive and still lovelier evening, and full moonrise here over the Lune.

I suppose it is Kirk-by-Lune's Dale? for the church, I find, is a very important Norman relic. By the way, I should tell you, that the _colored plates in the "Stones of Venice" do great injustice to my drawings; the patches are worn on the stones. My _drawings were not _good_, but the plates are total failures. The only one even of the engravings, which is rightly done is the (_last_, I think, in Appendix) inlaid dove and raven. I'll show you the drawing for that when I come back, and perhaps for the San Michele, if I recollect to fetch it from Oxford, and I'll fetch you the second volume, which has really good plates. That blue beginning, I forgot to say, is of the Straits of Messina, and it is really _very like the color of the sea.

That is intensely curious about the parasitical plant of Borneo. But--very dreadful!

* * * * *

You are like Timon of Athens, and I'm like one of his parasites. The oranges are delicious, the brown bread dainty; what the melon is going to be I have no imagination to tell. But, oh me, I had such a lovely letter from Dr. John, sent me from Joan this morning, and I've lost it. It said, "Is Susie as good as her letters? If so, she must be better. What freshness of enjoyment in everything she says!"

Alas! not in everything she feels in _this weather, I fear. Was ever anything so awful?

* * * * *

Do you know, Susie, everything that has happened to me (and the leaf I sent you this morning may show you it has had some hurting in it) is _little in comparison to the crushing and depressing effect on me, of what I learn day by day as I work on, of the cruelty and ghastliness of the _nature I used to think so Divine? But, I get out of it by remembering, This is but a crumb of dust we call the "world," and a moment of eternity which we call "time." Can't answer the great question to-night.

* * * * *

I can only thank you for telling me; and say, Praised be God for giving him back to us.

Worldly people say "Thank God" when they get what they want; as if it amused God to plague them, and was a vast piece of self-denial on His part to give them what they liked. But I, who am a simple person, thank God when He hurts me, because I don't think he likes it any more than I do; but I can't _praise Him, because--I don't understand why--I can only praise what's pretty and pleasant, like getting back our doctor.

* * * * *

_26th November.

And to-morrow I'm not to be there; and I've no present for you, and I am so sorry for both of us; but oh, my dear little Susie, the good people all say this wretched makeshift of a world is coming to an end next year, and you and I and everybody who likes birds and roses are to have new birthdays and presents of such sugar plums. Crystals of candied cloud and manna in sticks with no ends, all the way to the sun, and white stones; and new names in them, and heaven knows what besides.

It sounds all too good to be true; but the good people are positive of it, and so's the great Pyramid, and the Book of Daniel, and the "Bible of Amiens." You can't possibly believe in any more promises of mine, I know, but if I _do come to see you this day week, don't think it's a ghost; and believe at least that we all love you and rejoice in your birthday wherever we are.

I'm so thankful you're better.

Reading my old diary, I came on a sentence of yours last year about the clouds being all "trimmed with swansdown," _so pretty. (I copied it out of a letter.) The thoughts of you always trim _me with swansdown.

* * * * *

I never got your note written yesterday; meant at least to do it even after post time, but was too stupid, and am infinitely so to-day also. Only I _must pray you to tell Sarah we all had elder wine to finish our evening with, and I mulled it myself, and poured it out in the saucepan into the expectants' glasses, and everybody asked for more; and I slept like a dormouse. But, as I said, I am so stupid this morning that----. Well, there's no "that" able to say how stupid I am, unless the fly that wouldn't keep out of the candle last night; and _he had some notion of bliss to be found in candles, and I've no notion of anything.

* * * * *

The blue sky is so wonderful to-day and the woods after the rain so delicious for walking in that I must still delay any school talk one day more. Meantime I've sent you a book which is in a nice large print and may in some parts interest you. I got it that I might be able to see Scott's material for "Peveril;" and it seems to me that he might have made more of the real attack on Latham House, than of the fictitious one on Front de Boeuf's castle, had he been so minded, but perhaps he felt himself hampered by too much known fact.

* * * * *

But you gave my present before(47) a month ago, and I've been presenting myself with all sorts of things ever since; and now it's not half gone. I'm very thankful for this, however, just now, for St. George, who is cramped in his career, and I'll accept it if you like for him. Meantime I've sent it to the bank, and hold him your debtor. I've had the most delicious gift besides, I ever had in my life,--the Patriarch of Venice's blessing written with his own hand, with his portrait.

I'll bring you this to see to-morrow and a fresh Turner.

(Footnote 47: "Frondes" money.)

* * * * *

The weather has grievously depressed me this last week, and I have not been fit to speak to anybody. I had much interruption in the early part of it though, from a pleasant visitor; and I have not been able to look rightly at your pretty little book. Nevertheless, I'm quite sure your strength is in private letter writing, and that a curious kind of shyness prevents your doing yourself justice in print. You might also surely have found a more pregnant motto about bird's nests!

Am not I cross? But these gray skies are mere poison to my thoughts, and I have been writing such letters, that I don't think many of my friends are likely to speak to me again.

* * * * *

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Hortus Inclusus - Susie's Letters Hortus Inclusus - Susie's Letters

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The following Letters and the little Notes on Birds are inserted here by the express wish of Mr. Ruskin. I had it in my mind to pay Susie some extremely fine compliments about these Letters and Notes, and to compare her method of observation with Thoreau's, and above all, to tell some very pretty stories showing her St. Francis-like sympathy with, and gentle power over, all living creatures; but Susie says that she is already far too prominent, and we hope that the readers of "Hortus" will see for themselves how she reverences and cherishes all noble life, with a special

Hortus Inclusus - Preface Hortus Inclusus - Preface

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The ladies to whom these letters were written have been, throughout their brightly tranquil lives, at once sources and loadstones of all good to the village in which they had their home, and to all loving people who cared for the village and its vale and secluded lake, and whatever remained in them or around of the former peace, beauty, and pride of English Shepherd Land. Sources they have been of good, like one of its mountain springs, ever to be found at need. They did not travel; they did not go up to London in its season; they did not